Indexed on: 13 Feb '08Published on: 13 Feb '08Published in: Crisis
Despite substantial research on media influences and the development of media guidelines on suicide reporting, research on the specifics of media stories that facilitate suicide contagion has been limited. The goal of the present study was to develop a content analytic strategy to code features in media suicide reports presumed to be influential in suicide contagion and determine the interrater reliability of the qualitative characteristics abstracted from newspaper stories. A random subset of 151 articles from a database of 1851 newspaper suicide stories published during 1988 through 1996, which were collected as part of a national study in the United States to identify factors associated with the initiation of youth suicide clusters, were evaluated. Using a well-defined content-analysis procedure, the agreement between raters in scoring key concepts of suicide reports from the headline, the pictorial presentation, and the text were evaluated. The results show that while the majority of variables in the content analysis were very reliable, assessed using the kappa statistic, and obtained excellent percentages of agreement, the reliability of complicated constructs, such as sensationalizing, glorifying, or romanticizing the suicide, was comparatively low. The data emphasize that before effective guidelines and responsible suicide reporting can ensue, further explication of suicide story constructs is necessary to ensure the implementation and compliance of responsible reporting on behalf of the media.